For anyone in this day and age of viral messaging and live forever on the Internet culture to try and be deliberately shocking is just, kind of, boring. Being deliberately conscious of the power in your words and messages, on the other hand? That’s something. That’s powerful. That gets eyes, and it captures and holds consumer and fan attention the right way.
When you control your speech, even while fighting the good fight for authenticity and truth, that’s admirable. That build advocates. That encourages people to promote you, your brand, your product, your service, your philosophy without you ever having to ask.
It’s not easy. It requires discipline. Sometimes you have to bite your lip and internally take one for the team, rather than let one rip and damage others or the larger picture. It’s about having the emotional intelligence to choose when and when not to communicate certain messages in a public forum. That, believe or it not, does not have to diminish your authenticity because it helps to embolden your strength.
Kanye West seems to still be drinking the shock jock Kool-aid though. He’s been all over the place doing the absolute most – yet not nearly enough, if you know what I mean.
Let’s see, there was that weird exchange with John Legend where he published their private text correspondence. Um, Mr. West? That’s just not done without permission, sir.
Then there was that taped TMZ appearance where he said 400 years of slavery was a choice. Lawd, have mercy on all our souls! That was like the shot heard ‘round the world. I just shook my head. And for real? I think I know what he was trying to say – something loosely related to the idea of choosing to stay in mental bondage. But, dude. Come on. Let’s pick a better delivery system for this particular narrative.
At 40, either his brain to mouth filter is irrevocably busted, he’s legitimately suffering some sort of mental health crisis, or he’s just silly and immature. At worse, there are elements of all these things at play. But I’m leaning toward another explanation: That this is just a big, misguided, unchecked ego. My evidence? He said it himself, “let genius be free.”
West is always yelling that people don’t know how to think, that they lack free thought. That could be true, but who made him the hammer that needs to break that particular glass? That’s the disconnect. He’s quick to say, “People need to start worrying about themselves. I’m just living my life… doing what the spirit calls me to do.”
Yet he rants at top volume. It’s like screaming look at me, look at me, I know what you need. Then he promptly absolves himself of any responsibility for the fall out behind his words by saying, well, don’t be mad. I’m just an artist.
But even artists bear responsibility for the work they produce.
Black people are struggling. We have always struggled in this country. And it’s not because we don’t want to work, or because we don’t have talent, or because we are unilaterally unable or unwilling to learn or to think for ourselves. The discriminatory systems and processes – what we call institutionalized racism – that were formed during slavery are still vital and hard at work today. That’s why a globally prominent black person shouldn’t be cavalier when speaking about that still painful part of our shared U.S. history.
Do I believe slavery is a reason for black people not to succeed today? Absolutely not. Do I believe institutionalized racism and the remnants of slavery can make it 10X harder for a black person to succeed today? Absolutely.
And ‘Ye? Brother. You are not stupid. You know this. You know there are a ton of people walking around the United States right now who will deny with their last fetid breath the long-reaching ramifications of slavery, who deny that it was even wrong, and then you say some shit like that?
What happened to do it for the culture? What happened to loyalty and love for one’s people? What happened to do no harm? Is this some kind of switcharoo, some psychological manipulation that’s supposed to – man, I just can’t.
That slavery mess, for me, was worse than his other media maker this week, this continued verbal love affair with that person currently occupying the White House. And I’m saying that with Michael B. Jordan’s epic Black Panther quote still echoing in my ears:
“Bury me in the ocean, with my ancestors that jumped from the ships because they knew death was better than bondage.”
I’m not going to get on someone for being a Republican. That’s your choice, and choice is as wonderful and American as apple pie and the flag. I won’t even get on you for actively supporting that misogynistic, racist, elitist person specifically – though I will give you some serious side eye and vacate your vicinity as quickly as possible lest the foolishness be catching – but when you say, “Trump is my boy!” don’t pretend to be shocked when people turn up their collective noses at your stink.
We’re not saying that because we lack free will or don’t know how to think. Dude, we’re simply wondering why you’re speaking like this, what is the point, and is everything okay?
I don’t know what Kanye’s doing or where his head’s at. There has been talk of mental health issues, and if memory serves I think he came out the bag and jumped crazy like this the last time he was releasing music. This could easily be a marketing ploy to drum up some interest in advance of the next album drop.
I’m actually low key hoping for him to release a single, then wink on social media and pull a Keke Palmer: “But the gag is!” Then he’ll go on an epic rant about how easy it is to distract people from what’s important with nonsense, and encourage people to vote or something.
But that’s not real. That’s what I hope. My other hope is that if ‘Ye is suffering from some sort of mental crisis that someone gets him some help.
For the sake of this blog, however, and the idea that what you say in a public forum has power, I would caution any person to be circumspect when communicating, whether it’s on social media, via video or any other way.
Think of your brand. Think how easy it is to damage a reputation you have spent years building. Think how much time and effort, how many resources it takes to repair your credibility, credibility that can be damaged with a single, careless tweet. Think of your legacy. When his time is done, will people speak most about the wonderful music Kanye made, or will that become a footnote to his voluntary associations with dodgy politicians and nonsensical, stream of consciousness rants?
As for Mr. West. For the love of your people, man. Think about the long-term ramifications of what you’re saying. Please. Don’t give the enemy – whoever that may be – any more ammunition to use against us. There are other ways to get attention, to break people out of complacency and groupthink, to get us to act, to consider that new new that could conceivably change our hearts, minds and lives for the better.
Vocalizing certain sentiments just seems so careless, so gross, so wrong. It’s like Steve Harvey said, “Those of us that’s older know, there’s certain things you just can’t say. You ain’t free to be free.” To suggest that slavery was a choice is like saying that black people were responsible for their own oppression. It suggests that we were ignorant, servile, in need of – something; not care, that’s too ridiculous, but something.
‘Ye, you’re not encouraging free thought with these nutty rants. You’re giving people headaches from rolling their eyes too hard and expending excessive amounts of mental bandwidth trying to figure out how the hell to get away from your crap.